Recently in [2-22] Weber III: Religion and Rationality Category

Blog # 1- Weber III (Manar Gad)

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Weber observes the occupational statistics of any country of mixed religious that brings to a light a frequent situation that business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labour, and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, are Protestant. He noted the post-Reformation shift of Europe's economic centre away from Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy, and toward Protestant countries such as the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Germany. Weber also noted that societies having more Protestants were those with a more highly developed capitalist economy. Similarly, in societies with different religions, most successful business leaders were Protestant. Weber thus argued that Roman Catholicism impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West, as did other religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism elsewhere in the world. It appears that in religious affiliation, it has had a free hand to alter the social distribution of the population in accordance with its needs, and to determine its occupational structure. Based on Webers observations, he believed that the greater participation of Protestant in the ownership of capital, in management, and the upper ranks of labour in great modern industrial and commercial enterprise, in which as he stated, "religious affiliation is not a cause of the economic conditions, but to a certain extent appears to be a result of them (pg.228). A majority of the wealthy towns went over to Protestantism in the sixteenth century. Tradition has been a factor. Religious traditions, as of all traditional authorites. It has been claimed that "greater participation of Protestants in the positions of ownership and management in modern economic life may to-day be understood, in part at least, simply as a result of the greater material wealth they have inherited" (pg. 229), this explains why few Catholics are engaged in capitalistic enterprise. "Catholics show stronger propensity to remain in their crafts, that is they more often become master craftsmen, whereas the Protestants are attracted to a larger extent into the factories in order to fill the upper ranks of skilled labour and administrative positions," as stated (pg. 230). The mental and spiritual was acquired from the environment, the type of education favored by religious atmosphere of home community and the parental home, which have determine the choice of occupation and the professional career. "This the principal explanation of this difference must be sought in the permanent intrinsic character of their religious beliefs, and not only in their temporary external historic-political situations" (pg. 230). In his observations, he chooses to investigate these religions with a view to finding out what peculiarities they have or had that resulted in their behaviors. It appears that they value time and money. They invest their sum through the labors of their work to make good and large credit and make good use of it.

Weber offered an "ideal-type" methodology. His classification system was based on deduced constructs of rationally related potential means-end connections. These were not intended as reflections of actual social behaviors, but as abstract examples of possibilities against which the phenomena being studied could be assessed. Weber saw this process as essentially different from "generic conceptualization" which attempts, by means of empirical observation, to isolate key criteria and to group phenomena in terms of these. In his view, such generic concepts reflect the "essence" of the fixed, orderly and valueless reality of the physical world, and comprise the basic facts of natural science. He believed that social reality is so different in its ultimate "essence" that its concepts must be constructed quite differently. Weber insisted there was indeed a way in which ideal types could ascertain "correct" explanations. The subjectively intended meaning of an act could be uncovered by the method of "Verstehen". The essential meaning thus arrived at is what he meant by "Verstehen", or "explanatory understanding".

The Protestant ethic motivated the believers to work hard, be successful in business and reinvest their profits in further development rather than frivolous pleasures. The notion of calling meant that each individual had to take action in order to be saved; just being a member of the Church was not enough. Predestination also reduced antagonising over economic inequality and further, it meant that a material wealth could be taken as a sign of salvation in the afterlife. The believers thus justified pursuit of profit with religion, as instead of being fuelled by morally suspect greed or ambition, their actions were motivated by a highly moral and respected philosophy.

Iron cage is concept introduced by Max Weber, refers to the increased rationalization inherent in social life, particularly in Western capitalist societies. The "iron cage" thus traps individuals in systems based purely on teleological efficiency, rational calculation and control. In Weber's view, bureaucracies are cages in the sense that people are trapped in them, their basic humanity denied. Marx sees alienation as only a transitional stage on the road to man's true emancipation. Weber does not believe in the future leap from the realm of necessity into the world of freedom. He thought it more probable that the future would be an "iron cage" rather than a Garden of Eden.

Blog #4: Weber III: Religion and Rationality

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1. Explain the interesting historical puzzle Weber observes at the beginning of the piece. What important question emerges from this puzzle? How does Weber attempt to answer this question? Outline the theory Weber constructs to explain the relationship between Protestant religious values and the development of capitalist culture.

Max Weber begins this section of reading by talking about the history of people's performance in the work field. The main focus is on a certain part of Europe. I can understand why Max emphasizes this part with Europe. This is the place where Max was born and raised. A person could say "Why didn't Max Weber talk about America or Asia?". The answer to the question is Max was not around those places before he wrote "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism". I would do the same thing too if I knew enough information about a certain place more than another.
Max starts talking about how Germany's main religious denomination is Catholic. Even though Catholic is the leading religious denomination, Max has observed that most of the people who are wealthy and own a lot of things, "are overwhelmingly Protestant"(p. 228). If you do not know what Protestant is, Protestant is another denomination of Christianity. As you can see there is a bit of irony here. Since Germany's citizens mostly belong to the Catholic denomination, one would think Catholics should be dominating Germany's economy. As Max has seen that is not the case. When I read this part I thought Max sounded surprised too based on the tone of the passage. Anyways this is the historical puzzle that Max wants people to know.
When Max discovers this historical puzzle of the majority of high class people in Germany belong to the Protestant denomination, he gives a question for thought. The question Max gives is "why were the districts of highest economic development at the same time particularly favourable to a revolution in the Church?"(p. 229). The answer to that question according to Max "is by no means so simple as one might think"(p. 229). In the past a lot of whites' countries were ruled by the church. With the church ruling the states or whatever the success of the economy came through the church. People who are churchgoers have created different sects from way in the past till now. Protestants are one of them. The first reason why Protestants are wealthy is because they inherit "greater material wealth"(p. 229). Protestants inherit great wealth due to their schooling and ambitions. Studies show that Protestants prepare themselves for their careers better than Catholics. In better preparation Protestants get more access to higher income and power. When people start working Protestants tend to learn different trades along the way. Thus building their skills so they become wiser and allowing them to move up the hierarchy. Catholics on the other hand tend to stay in one position. Staying in one position allows them to "become master craftsmen"(p. 230). The choices that these people make are reflective upon their denominations. I guess these traits that Protestants show lead to the notion of Protestant Ethic. I assume that what Max talked about involving Protestants is what gave him the idea to create such a concept. Despite Protestants being better both Catholics and Protestants make the economy better.

Explain the interesting historical puzzle Weber observes at the beginning of the piece. What important question emerges from this puzzle? How does Weber attempt to answer this question? Outline the theory Weber constructs to explain the relationship between Protestant religious values and the development of capitalist culture. How does Weber's analysis challenge the Marxist logic of historical materialism? Are there elements of Weber's theory that complement Marx? What is the "iron cage" Weber refers to at the end of the piece? Would Marx agree with that concept?

Weber observes a connection between being Protestant and the economic development, which Weber contributes to their religious beliefs. Weber addresses a question of "Why were the districts of highest economic development at the same time particularly favourable to a revolution in the Church?" (229). Weber contributes this to the Protestant ethics. The Protestant ethics in Webers observation appears that it is virtuous to have capital gain. Protestants both as a high class and low class have developed an 'economic rationalism', which Weber contributes to their religious beliefs. However, I don't feel that Weber was exploring the religiousness of the Protestant, but more so their spirit and how they applied their beliefs and ethics to the work place. The Protestants value profit and their success are good signs of being in God's favor. However, it is not material gain, but a 'compulsion to save' (241) which attributed to the Protestants economic development and their rise in wealth. The Protestants were focused on working hard and accumulating profit, but they were restricting their consumption of luxuries and possessions. It was deemed necessary by God that the consumption of luxuries or possessions were an irrational use of wealth. Instead the Protestants focused on what was necessary for an ideal and comfortable life, which was much like the middle class. Furthermore, the working hard and accumulating their wealth not only helped maintain a Protestants ethos and morals but it also allowed them to rise spiritually as well as building on their wealth. On top of this concept, the Protestants also grasp and welcome the ideas of capitalism, unlike other religions. On page 230 it states "...Catholics show a stronger propensity to remain in their crafts...whereas the Protestants are attracted to a larger extent into the factories in order to fill the upper ranks of skilled labour and administrative positions." This ideal helps perpetuate the ideal of capitalism and the labor market. The Catholics viewed their 'craftsmanship' as a key to their success, however the Protestants recognized the need for the labor within factories which in turn helped to create more individual jobs. Thus, the Protestant views give way for Marx's idea of the bourgeois. Because God shined upon the Protestants to accumulate all this wealth, it then gave rise to the capitalist system and allowed the Protestants to legally, and with God's approval exploit the common laborer. This idea is very similar to Marxist logic of the bourgeois and the proletariat. I feel it does complement Marx's theory , however what id contradicts on Marx's theory was the fact of materialism. Marx was focused on the materialistic gain of an individual, which was the key to capitalism. At the end of the piece, Weber refers to the 'iron cage'. "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without hearth; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved" (245). In this Weber is referring to the creativity being sucked out of the actual labor. Labor and the laborer will become a mechanical function. I feel Marx would agree with this function in the fact it is very similar to his idea of alienation. Marx's idea of alienation came from the laborer not having an attachment to the product, and not having a personal relationship with the consumer or the capitalist. This can be seen as Weber's idea of the iron cage, where the laborer becomes mechanical in his job process, he thus separates himself from everyone else and his job.


Weber III: Religion and Rationality - Reading Questions

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Weber III: "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" - Reading Questions

1. Explain the interesting historical puzzle Weber observes at the beginning of the piece. What important question emerges from this puzzle? How does Weber attempt to answer this question? Outline the theory Weber constructs to explain the relationship between Protestant religious values and the development of capitalist culture.

2. How does Weber apply key aspects of his methodology to his study of religion and economic development in this piece? Focus on how he uses the ideal type, the notion of verstehen, and the significance of ideas and values in shaping human behavior.

3. What are the key characteristics of the Protestant ethic? Focus your reflection around the key piece of evidence Weber uses to illustrate them, Benjamin Franklin's statement (232). How did the values of Protestant asceticism produce an attitude that supported the capitalist demands to work hard and accumulate profit? What kind of "rational" social action emerges from these values?

4. How does Weber's analysis challenge the Marxist logic of historical materialism? Are there elements of Weber's theory that complement Marx? What is the "iron cage" Weber refers to at the end of the piece? Would Marx agree with that concept-- why or why not?

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the [2-22] Weber III: Religion and Rationality category.

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